Scientists Develop Smartphone-based System for Detecting Lead in Water

The presence of lead in drinking and domestic use water is a huge health hazard and ways of detecting the same are in high demand as industrialization and improper disposal of industrial wastewater are increasingly polluting water sources across the globe. Working in the area finding an easily accessible, inexpensive, and portable method of detecting lead in water, researchers from the University of Houston have developed an economic system that allows the reliable detection of lead in tap water at levels that are commonly considered dangerous.

The system uses a smartphone integrated with an inkjet-printed lens and the dark-field imaging technology. The system is said to be an excellent combination of dark-field microscopy and nano-colorimetry with a smartphone microscope platform. The inexpensive and rapid detection of lead in tap water with the use of this system can enable individuals to test the water they have for consumption and determine whether it is safe for their health.

Studies show that even traces of lead can pose sign cant health issues, with young children at particular danger from ensuing neurological damage. Safety standards across the globe place the safety limit of lead in water to lower than 15 parts per billion and the test kits presently available in the market are not sensitive or reliable enough for the accurate detection of lead at that level. The new system developed by the researchers demonstrated a sensitivity level of 5 parts per billion in case of tap water and 1.37 parts per billion in case of deionized water.